After an election that flushed out many longtime state legislators and brought in a wave of fresh faces, Loudoun supervisors met with the new General Assembly delegation as a group for the first time Tuesday.
Supervisors laid out what they would like to see delegates and senators get done in the state capital next year—some new issues, some that have long plagued the county.
“We actually need people—delegates and state senators—to carry our legislation, and we’d like to have the full body support that legislation,” said County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) during the meeting at Rust Library in Leesburg.
Supervisors found patrons and supporters for almost all of their priorities during the session.
Those include preserving local land use and taxing authority; making sure the state lives up to its funding and service obligations, such as clearing regulatory backlogs; requiring companies to register the location of fiber optic cables, which have delayed projects and ballooned costs when it has been unexpectedly dug up; allow for competitive negotiation of professional services contracts; and regulatory changes that would make it easier and cheaper to extend broadband internet access to rural areas, among others.
The priority list also includes filling Loudoun’s fourth, unfunded seat on the Circuit Court bench, rounding out five judges in the 20th Circuit in total. Clerk of the Court Gary Clemens pointed out the National Center for State Courts has studied workloads in the courts and recommended that seat be filled.
“That’s incredibly good news,” Clemens said. “What we need now is to make sure our delegation stays united on this issue.”
The General Assembly yanked funding for that seat early last year while it was vacant after the retirement of Judge Burke F. McCahill.
Proffers Loom Large
The Board of Supervisors has no proposed legislation on one issue that has dominated many of its discussions, but asked legislators to keep an ear to the ground. Since the General Assembly passed a bill crippling most localities’ ability to negotiate proffer agreements with developers in 2016, Loudoun supervisors—and increasingly, leaders in other fast-growing areas—have decried the legislation.
Loudoun has long relied on proffer agreements with developers requesting zoning changes to help pay for infrastructure like roads and schools. The proffer bill, written by the Homebuilders Association of Virginia, prohibits accepting or requesting many common proffer agreements. After Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law, rezoning applications—a necessary part of almost all large developments in Northern Virginia—dried up.
Loudoun took advantage of an exception written into that law to keep negotiating proffers in its suburban areas.
“We flat got no rezoning applications—not a one,” said board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn). “At least the [Northern Virginia Building Industry Association] realized that they shot themselves in the foot. They realized that because no rezonings were coming, and you have to remember this applies to upzonings.”
Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) also pointed out that county’s Affordable Dwelling Unit program is fed through rezoning approvals.
“If we don’t have a rezoning, we don’t get ADUs,” Volpe said. “If everything goes by-right, we get no ADUs, we get no workforce housing.” She suggested a bill that would allow the fastest-growing localities in the state to resume proffer talks.
And Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) said some developers would prefer to contribute pubic facilities through proffers because they make their developments more attractive.
“These builders brought to the table amenities that they were trying to improve their development, so they could compete with the other guys,” Higgins said.
The two newest public libraries, for example, were built by developers in Stone Ridge and Brambleton.
But Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) cautioned that if Loudoun reopens the proffer fight, it wants to be sure it will win.
“I think we have to be really careful, if we open the can of worms, that we don’t lose our exemptions,” Meyer said. “Because right now our exemptions are the only way we’re going to pay for capital in the Metro area.”
Sen. Richard H. Black (R-13) and Del. John J. Bell (D-87) both said they would be willing to co-patron a bill rolling back that regulation if the county devises one.
Loudoun will have three new delegates—all Democrats who unseated longtime Republican incumbents—representing them in Richmond when the 2018 General Assembly session begins Jan. 15. Delegates-elect David Reid (D-32) and Wendy Gooditis (D-10) attended Tuesday’s Legislative Luncheon, and took a lot of notes. Democrat Karrie Delaney (D-67) did not attend.